Baby boomers will recall Mikey of Life Cereal commercial fame as the original picky eater. The commercial starts with a closeup on Mikey, who “won’t eat anything.” His friends and family plead with him, offering him every cereal imaginable, but still Mikey shakes his head and refuses to eat. Suddenly, a bowl of Life Cereal appears before Mikey and Mikey digs in. Shouts of, “Mikey likes it! Mikey likes it” rise from the amazed voices off screen. Everyone is happy and lives happily ever after. If only it were that easy.
For mom’s today, picky eaters can be especially frustrating. With all the pressure to feed your kids healthy foods, you can’t decide if you feel like more of a villain giving them chips or forcing them to eat their veggies. Plus, with your busy schedule, it’s hard to find time to whip up brownies with pureed carrots hidden inside.
The good news here, is you’re not alone, it's typical for little ones to be picky about the foods they eat. Here are some insights into the world of the picky eater.
Telltale Signs of a Picky Eater
- Unfortunately, kids judge foods by their covers. So, don’t be surprised if your child finds fault with a food because it’s squishy, or green, or red, or has too many seeds.
- Picky eaters may have a food of the week, or month, or year. if your child refuses to eat anything but macaroni and cheese and cereal for a few months, you’ve got a picky eater on your hands.
- Also, don’t be surprised if your child spends time at the table doing anything but eating. Picky eaters are notorious for spending dinner time without acknowledging the food.
- Picky eaters also are pretty unwilling to try anything new. Little children naturally stick to what they’re familiar with.
So, what do you do? If you put too much pressure on them to eat, they may end up resenting you and the food. If you don’t pressure them, you spend nights in worry that they won’t grow up healthy. Here are a few suggestions for making peace with your picky eater.
Let Up on the pressure
The first thing to do is stop pressuring your kids. According to research, it’s getting you nowhere. Studies conducted on two and three-year-olds showed absolutely no connection between parental pressure and eating habits. There was no evidence that children who were pressured by their parents grew up any healthier or had more positive attitudes toward food than children who were not.
Pressuring your children can backfire on you and the more you push, the more they push back. Take the pressure off the both of you and find a more peaceful solution.
Kids Will Grow Out of It
Although at the moment it may seem impossible to imagine, your child will grow out of it. As children grow, their tastes develop, and their eating habits change. Eventually, they will become accustomed, or even excited about trying new foods. If you can ride it out, you will see their children becoming less resistant to eating unfamiliar food.
So, how do you get beyond the stage of picky eating and emerge out the other end with a healthy eater?
Division of Responsibility
Try to bond over food rather than letting it become a barrier. Model healthy eating, and every once in a while, put a tablespoon of what’s on your plate onto theirs. Give them control over what they choose to eat and how much they choose to eat from what you put on the table. Introducing your kids to new foods is the first step to them making friends with it.
Children’s taste for food starts early. The best time to cultivate a healthy eater is when he or she gets started on solid foods. Pick something healthy, like pureed avocado, and let your child lean in and open his mouth for the food. Don’t force the food into your infant’s mouth and try to resist the “airplane game.”. Sometimes coming in for a landing can lead to a crash.
Make Kids Part of the Process
Take them to the Farmer’s Market and let them explore. Let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable to take home and try. Talk to them about it, discuss how it was grown, or better yet, grow it with them.
Give them choices when it comes to mealtime. Instead of asking, “Do you want spinach tonight, ask, “Do you want spinach or cauliflower tonight?” Get them to eat their veggies, but don’t expect them to love them. Let them know that you respect their choices and feel comfortable letting them take responsibility.
Cook with them. Talk about how food is prepared and how it is enjoyed. They may not love everything, but they’ll end up loving you for it.
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